Recentering STI PolicyMaking for Uncovering Modernity in Africa

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A renewed STI regime requires the recentering and strengthening of science and technology policy-making and development institutions.  These institutions are weak in many African countries, particularly the smaller ones. Here again, NEPAD could contribute to improving the situation.  Countries like Eritrea, Chad, Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Libya, Djibouti, Swaziland, DRC, Angola, Gambia and many others could benefit from a program that addresses institutional capacity gaps for science and technology policy formulation and implementation.  STI policy and operational institutions that were created in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the aid of ECA and Africa Union need to be reviewed in light of the new challenges of deepening globalization and accelerating technological innovation.

 

On the other hand, the new STI regime requires the development of adequate human resources and the development of an appropriate knowledge base to shoulder an open economy competing on the world market.  Addressing brain-drain issues and taking advantage of the Diaspora is also necessary. Some African countries may also consider easing immigration regulations and procedures in order to facilitate the mobility of international experts, including particularly African expatriates.

 

Furthermore, this regime necessitates strong political leadership and a better integration of science and technology and innovation policies -- which cut across many sectors -- including economic, financial, budgetary, fiscal, labour, agriculture, industry, micro-enterprises development and others.  This has far-reaching consequences for policy-making, as it implies that science and technology should move from the periphery to the center of the development policy processes and should pervade all relevant policy areas impacting on development. 

 

Success in this ‘realignment’ and ‘re-centering’ calls for strong political commitment vis-à-vis science and technology and the full engagement of the science and technology community, as experienced in the 90' s with the former Presidential Forum on Science and Technology. 

 

This ‘re-centering’ may be facilitated by the setting up or strengthening of Parliamentary Committees on Science and Technology (PCST), already in existence in a few African countries, such as South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya.  It may also be facilitated by the appointment of high profile and highly credible and respected science and technology advisors to the President. 

 

The creation of Interdepartmental Science and Technology Fora (ISTF), comprising science and technology focal points of various ministries and governmental institutions dealing with issues related to science and technology may also be useful in “demonopolizing” science and technology responsibilities and in bringing science and technology issues to the center of the development policy process.  The diffusion of these best practices throughout the continent must be encouraged.

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